In association with Diageo

3 whisky cocktails for winter

By Nicholas Robinson contact

- Last updated on GMT

Whisky action: a versatile spirit in cocktails
Whisky action: a versatile spirit in cocktails

Related tags: Cocktail

Whisky is unlike any other spirit. Fact. It is complex, often mysterious, but sadly sometimes viewed in the wrong light by drinkers and even some bartenders as a stuffy, challenging liquid that is unyielding and impossible to use in cocktails.

These ‘complexities’, which lead some to overlook whisky in cocktails, can easily be employed to the bartender’s advantage.

The mosaic of flavours offered by whisky can enhance other qualities within a mixed drink – unlike, say vodka, which is mainly used within a drink as a foundation to carry flavours and add alcohol content.

There is work to be done to change some people’s mindset when it comes to whisky in cocktails, says Scotch whisky ambassador Ali Reynolds.


Dick Bradsell’s classic cocktail is given a decadent and delightful holiday twist (Units: 1.6)

Back story:

Espresso Martini
Twist: the Espresso Martini at a new level

The original Espresso Martini was created by Dick Bradsell at the Brasserie Soho in the early 1980s and has been bringing pure caffeinated joy to all who drink it since.
This variation, using Haig Clubman instead of vodka, adds a new dimension to this great cocktail, thanks to the butterscotch sweetness of the whisky combining with the nutty coffee notes.


  • 25ml Haig Club Clubman single-grain Scotch whisky
  • 25ml creme de cacao
  • 25ml espresso
  • 10ml gingerbread syrup
  • Cinnamon

Step 1: Shake all ingredients together with ice and strain into a Martini glass.
Step 2: Garnish with a sprinkle of cinnamon and three coffee beans.

Chocolate liqueur can be used in place of creme de cacao for a cocktail that’s just as decadent and bold.

The biggest issue starts with the introduction to the category, usually a glass of neat punchy and peaty Scotch. “It’s a quintessentially British drink,” he says, behind the bar of Hawksmoor in Spitalfields where he is preparing winter whisky cocktails. “The problem with whisky is the education around it and the stigma that you can’t mix it, other than with a dash of water.”

Haig Club Clubman, he believes, is the spirit to break down the unnecessary barriers that have been built around whisky over the years. It is a simple, yet interesting, single grain Scotch that opens on the nose and palate with vanilla and coconut. It isn’t smoky, is quite sweet and has a smooth custard finish.

David Beckham

This whisky was developed by Diageo and David Beckham to break down the whisky boundaries and is meant to be mixed with cola and in cocktails, which Reynolds executes perfectly. The first of the winter serves that the 2015 Diageo Reserve GB World Class Bartender of the Year champion makes is his take on the popular espresso martini cocktail.

The drink was first made by the late Dick Bradsell at the Brasserie Soho, London, in the 1980s. But making it with Haig Club Clubman instead of vodka creates a whole new experience. The butterscotch sweetness of the whisky combines with the nutty coffee notes from the espresso and creme de cacao. Warmth comes from the gingerbread syrup and cinnamon.

The Clubman Winter Spiced Espresso Martini is a well-balanced cocktail and would make an excellent addition to any menu during the colder months. It is the sort of drink that a hardened traditional espresso martini cocktail drinker wouldn’t find fault with.

“People recognise and like espresso martini cocktails and the fact this is made with a nice grain whisky really works,” Reynolds adds. “I think twisting the classics is the best way to get people drinking new spirits. There’s a lot going on even with the Gimlet, taking out the gin and putting in Tequila, things like that work so well.

“With a vodka espresso martini cocktail you’re not really using the spirit’s flavours, so you can use Haig Club Club-man, and with the flavours you’re adding, it really shines. And why not complement them and make them shine?”


A modern twist on the Old Fashioned (Units 2.1)

Back story:
A modern take on a classic whisky drink that enhances the caramel flavours of the cola and the vanilla flavours of Clubman.

Haig Club Old Fashioned
New thinking: an Old Fashioned with new appeal


  • 50ml Haig Club Clubman single-grain Scotch whisky
  • 1 tsp brown sugar or simple syrup
  • 20ml cola
  • 5ml vermouth
  • 1 slice of orange
  • 1 cherry

Step 1: Stir all ingredients with ice for one minute.
Step 2: pour over ice and garnish with a fresh cherry and a slice of orange.

Add cherry, orange or vanilla bitters to give a flavour twist.

As with Reynolds’s take on the espresso martini cocktail, the Clubman Cola Old Fashioned he has devised is also an accessible variation on a classic. Since Don Draper, a character from hit television series Mad Men, took the first on-screen sip of his Old Fashioned, Brits have been going crazy for the cocktail. Yet, it can be an acquired taste for some.

The Clubman Cola Old Fashioned utilises additional sweetness from cola and also sugar, making it more palatable for newcomers to the category. Haig Club Clubman complements the dark caramel flavours of the cola.

‘New wave Old Fashioned’

“It’s something a little different, a new wave Old Fashioned that’s a little more friendly,” explains Reynolds. “Cola offers a deeper flavour to the traditional Old Fashioned.”

One final drink Reynolds makes is a take on a real old-school recipe – the Hot Toddy.


A classic and traditional winter serve that works perfectly with the gentle sweetness of Haig Club Clubman whisky (Units: 1)

Back story:
This is a classic, traditionally served on cold winter evenings, and shared with friends and family. A sociable way to enjoy a drink through the holidays.

Hot Toddy
Up a notch: the classic made modern


  • 125ml cloudy apple juice
  • 25ml Haig Club Clubman single-grain Scotch whisky
  • 1 teaspoon of honey
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 star anise
  • 0.5 tsp grated ginger
  • A sprinkle of ground nutmeg
  • Slice of lemon and its peel

Step 1: Add everything except the Haig Club Clubman to a pan and bring to a simmer.
Step 2: Reduce the temperature, but continue warming for 10-15 minutes allowing the flavours to combine.
Step 3: Add the Haig Club Clubman, stir and then strain the mixture into a glass latte mug and garnish with the lemon peel.

For a slightly spicier serve, try adding orange peel studded with cloves to each glass as a garnish.

“It was always a whisky drink with water, honey and a clove-studded lemon wedge. We’ve taken the water out of the ingedients and used apple juice and cinnamon. So it’s very Christmassy.”

People are more inclined to try something new over Christmas, and this Hot Toddy screams festive cheer with its cinnamon, ginger and ground nutmeg.

Reynolds says: “At this time of the year people are ordering them a lot more, it’s the perfect winter warmer. It’s got all of the things in that work so well in the cold weather – whisky, spices and lemon.”

Within all of the serves, it’s not just whisky you can taste, but the individual characters of the Haig Club Clubman – the vanilla, custard and coconut.

Related topics: Spirits & Cocktails

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